Who's The Best Tight End Prospect In The Big Ten?
By Bill Lund
In recent years, the Big Ten has produced for the NFL a number of high-caliber tight ends. Wisconsin produced Owen Daniels, Garrett Graham and Lance Kendricks, all of whom have been productive NFL tight ends. Iowa provided the Colts with one of Peyton Manning’s favorite targets, Dallas Clark. Penn State is fast becoming a new “Tight End U” with Bill O’Brien’s influence.
Going into the 2014 draft, two of the Big Ten’s best may be the top two talents at the tight end position. C.J. Fiedorowicz of Iowa and Jacob Pedersen of Wisconsin have been on the NFL’s radar for the past couple of seasons. Each has their strengths and weaknesses, and with strong senior seasons, will undoubtedly have their names called this coming spring.
C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa
Fiedorowicz caught 45 passes for 433 yards and one touchdown during the 2012 season. At 6-foot-7, 265 pounds, Fiedorowicz has tremendous size for the position. Certainly his build and frame will provide intrigue to many NFL scouts, but his value is far greater than just his size.
As a blocker, Fiedorowicz. has shown to be physical at the point of attack on runs. He is at his best when he engages defenders and uses his tremendous reach to lock them out. Fiedorowicz is a high effort player as a run blocker. He does lose leverage on defenders at times due to poor body position. He will play high at times, bending at the waist rather than the knees, allowing players to slip away. He also possesses the ability to set on edge rushers, which is always a strong trait to have for NFL teams.
As a route runner, Fiedorowicz has an unexpected amount of straight-line quickness. He utilizes his size well to shield defenders away from receptions. He runs technically sound routes, but is not overly explosive out of his breaks. He is not a fluid pass catcher and works to catch the ball. That’s not to say he doesn’t catch the ball; rather, it feels as if he labors at catching the ball. He consistently makes catches with his hands away from his body, and he has difficulty making tough grabs when the ball isn’t placed accurately. Balls that are behind or low seem to provide him the most trouble. This was apparent in his Iowa State and Nebraska games during the 2012 season. He is a threat in the red zone and can snare balls that are seemingly high.
Fiedorowicz is not the type of explosive, versatile tight end that every offensive coordinator seems to be looking for nowadays, but will be a productive threat in a multiple tight end offense.
Jacob Pedersen, Wisconsin
Pedersen has been a highly productive tight end throughout his Wisconsin career. He has started 20 games over the last three years and entered his senior season with 65 career catches and 14 touchdowns. He has good size for the position (6-5, 241) and in the rugged Big Ten he has been up to the task as a blocker.
Pedersen gives great effort blocking in the run game. His strength in blocking is his technique and understanding of angles within the Badgers' ground assault. He may not have the power of Fiedorowicz, but he has been equally as productive in the run game. Against Purdue in 2012, Pedersen showed good “pop” from the line of scrimmage against the defensive ends, along with strong technique to seal off and position himself on defenders downfield.
Though he plays the traditional Y position for the Badgers, his value may be in his versatility working as an H back in the NFL. Pedersen is an intriguing player in the draft and has a tremendous upside due to his versatility. He has soft hands with excellent body control to easily make adjustments on the move to reel in inaccurate throws. He runs good routes and uses his body to leverage defenders out of position to create space to work. He also has the speed to be a downfield threat, which NFL teams now desire out of the position. Should Pedersen provide good measurables during the combine, he could increase his stock to be a potential second day selection.
Who’s the better tight end prospect?
Each player has value that can be exploited in the NFL. Fiedorowicz’s calling card will likely be as a blocker with ability to make tough catches on third down and in the red zone. Pedersen has more versatility to be an every-down tight end for most NFL teams. And though Fiedorowicz is a stronger blocker at the point of attack, Pedersen is good enough to block at the next level. Given that the NFL has evolved into more of a passing league than ever, Pedersen’s value should be increased in the eyes of NFL execs.